York County remains on pace to pass new rules requiring larger lots. An attempt to manage, or for some curb, new residential growth.
York County Council held public hearings on two changes last week. Then, passed the second of three votes needed to implement each. The votes came Nov. 6, just days after a council workshop on the changes.
Several Lake Wylie residents who attended the workshop and recent council meeting applauded the pending changes, though they’d like to see them go further.
“I do see this as definitely being a positive, in a positive direction,” said resident Billy Hagner.
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One change would increase minimum lot sizes in four zoning districts. Most lots would have to be 8,500 or 12,000 square feet, depending on district. The other change would allow the county planning commission to approve smaller lots when developers meet a series of requirements. Improved level of service for impacted roads being a main one.
Resident Don Clarke said he has lived in eight states, in many fast-growth areas where government rules to manage growth typically are behind developer interest. He said he believes “market forces will adjust” and the changes are a “responsible step forward” that won’t deter developers.
“I would encourage you to be on the side of being tougher,” Clarke said. “The market will catch up.”
Mark Sleeper was “impressed and enlightened” by council work toward the changes, but said the improvements are just an incremental step. He isn’t sure why council would “agonize about making such a small change.”
“I feel like they still don’t necessarily accomplish the goal,” Sleeper said. “This is a step in the right direction.”
He also encouraged council not to “worry too much if the developers go elsewhere.”
“It’s OK if they go elsewhere when we’re talking about trying to control growth,” Sleeper said. “It’s coming to our neighborhoods way too fast.”
Council had lengthy discussion on what requirements would allow for the smaller lot sizes. Particularly dealing with roads, where most state roads throughout the county have a level of service grade D. Whether the smaller lots would be based on the level of service before or after a building project.
District 1 Councilman Michael Johnson, who represents part of Fort Mill, said considering the road condition after development construction allows a builder to pump money into a road or intersection to get the smaller lots. Johnson said the county has to “incentivize them to make them a partner.”
“If that happens,” Johnson said of developers bringing roads up to standards, “it seems to me that’s kind of what we’re pushing for.”
Councilman Chad Williams, who also represents part of Fort Mill, just wants the new rules to be clear, so developers don’t go into a project expecting they’ll get the lot size reduction and miss out because of roads that they weren’t able to improve. Williams envisions developers in the scenario coming back and looking for answers from council.
“They turn planning decisions into political decisions, and the better we can make the ordinance today, the more they stay planning decisions,” he said.
Because of the poor condition of most roads, Councilman Robert Winkler sees the discussion of when to evaluate roads as minor.
“To me it serves the same purpose,” he said. “They get no reduction unless they improve it.”
So many state roads are graded “D” or worse, current county traffic impact analysis requirements only mandate a development maintain a D score. Councilwoman Allison Love, who ran for office because of the growth in Lake Wylie, said the county shouldn’t “try to make a curve for that,” and should require at minimum a “C” grade. If that mandate makes life harder on developers, so be it.
“I don’t think growth management, by any stretch, means that things are easy,” Love said. “You don’t make things easy when you want to manage something.”
Like residents from her area, the Lake Wylie and Clover representative said she would be fine if some developers see the changes and decide not to build in York County.
“If a lot of people have to walk, that’s OK with me,” Love said. “Because we’ve had a flood of people coming through the door and if we have to close that door and let fewer people in, I think York County as a whole will be better off.”
By setting new larger lot sizes countywide, but also allowing for smaller ones in some cases, council believes staff can have more say on how different areas develop.
“They don’t preserve land either,” Williams said of lot sizes, “but in areas like Lake Wylie, minimum lot sizes (I) don’t have a problem with. That’s what the automatic reductions are, is for other areas of the county.”
Councilman William “Bump” Roddey of Rock Hill said the county should be wary of how the decisions will impact the county. One impact he foresees is more expensive homes on those larger lots. When, Roddey said, York County homes already are “starting to skyrocket with the cost of living here.”
“We’re going to see the price continue to go up because developers typically just pass those costs on into the price of the home,” he said.